As I’ve started getting older (47 this past week!), I’ve become curious about what factors other than sun damage affect the skin negatively; namely smoking, alcohol and sugar. I don’t think anyone really needs a blog on how smoking is bad for your skin... the negative effects of smoking are widely known, and smoking is much less common now, so I won’t touch on that.
Alcohol and sugar consumption, however, are prevalent among many and I looked into how exactly they affect your skin.
Drinking alcohol causes two main issues in the skin: dehydration and inflammation.
Dehydration in the skin can show up as:
· Loss of elasticity, leading to wrinkles
· Appearance of larger pores
According to an article from goodtoknow.com, “Alcohol removes the fluid in the skin which can increase the appearance of wrinkles, dryness and sagging skin. As alcohol is a diuretic, it means that it actively draws water away from the body, significantly lowering the body’s water level, therefore causing dehydration. Dehydrated skin can look dry and unhealthy, both in the color of the skin as well as the texture. Dehydration can also lead to congestion in the skin and an increase of blackheads and whiteheads.”
Inflammation from alcohol can show up as:
· Increased redness in the skin/rosacea
Redness: If you have rosacea, alcohol will only make your symptoms worse. If you don’t have rosacea, alcohol can make your skin redder or appear flushed, as it increases blood flow in your body.
Acne: Many alcoholic drinks contain high amounts of sugar, which can cause hormonal changes that lead to overproduction of oil in the skin, increasing your chances of breakouts.
Puffiness: Alcohol is also well known for leading to fluid retention and puffiness across the face.
Now what about how sugar (in other forms than alcohol) effects skin? The short story is that sugar does age you.
Sugars react with proteins and causes what’s called cross-linking. Skin is composed of collagen and elastin, which make our skin soft and elastic. Sugar causes cross-linking of collagen, which results in stiffening and loss of elasticity of our skin. The more sugar we have, the more our skin starts to suffer.
According to unitypoint.org, sugar takes its toll on the skin in the following ways:
Appearance of wrinkles
Sagging in neck and chin
Development of dark spots
Slower healing of cuts, scraps, etc.
To get slightly technical: at the end of each strand of our DNA is a little cap, called a telomere, which protects our DNA from damage. Every time our DNA is read and duplicated, those telomeres shorten. While our bodies normally replace those telomeres, sugar quickens that shortening and advances the aging process.
An exact quantity of sugar that begins to cause these negative reactions isn’t known, but what is known for sure is the more sugar in your body, the more negative effects you will have.
Does everything sweet count as a harmful sugar? Research shows that the only sugars you shouldn’t worry about are natural sugars in fruits and vegetables. Everything else, like juices, sodas, processed sugar, raw sugar, brown sugar, and fruit juice concentrate should all be avoided.
This research was really illuminating for me and it helps me to know these types of details to understand what foods, drinks and additives are doing to my body, inside and out. I hope it’s helped you too…here’s to continuing our anti-aging plans in the new year. Cheers!